Panthers pleased with 'plethora' of TEs

June, 6, 2014
Jun 6
8:00
AM ET
Plethora isn't a word you hear every day at an NFL practice, but it was appropriate the way Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera used it on Wednesday.

"This year we have a plethora of veteran tight ends to the point we didn't bring in anybody who was a rookie," Rivera said.

The Panthers have six tight ends, to be exact.

[+] EnlargeDickson
Evan Habeeb/USA TODAY SportsThe Panthers will likely rely on former Ravens tight end Ed Dickson for production in the passing game.
They have a combined 20 years of experience.

By definition, plethora means "an amount that is much greater than what is necessary." And while six may seem excessive, it really isn't considering the Panthers are going to use a lot more two-tight end sets than they did the past two seasons.

"With an extra tight end in the game you can do so many different things," Rivera said. "Depending on who the tight end is, you can line up as a fullback, as another wide receiver or as a wing tight end. It's going to give us a lot more versatility."

The Panthers kept three tight ends on their 53-man roster a year ago in Greg Olsen, Ben Hartsock and Brandon Williams -- four when you count Richie Brockel, who plays fullback and tight end.

They could keep as many as five this season between Olsen, Ed Dickson, Williams, Mike McNeill, D.C. Jefferson and Brockel.

Olsen, going into his eighth season out of Miami, is a given. He led the team in receptions last season with 73 for 816 yards and six touchdowns. He's in his prime.

But the only other tight end to catch a pass in 2013 was Brockel, and he had one catch for 12 yards.

That will change with the addition of Dickson, a fifth-year player who caught 25 passes last season and 54 three years ago for the Baltimore Ravens. His presence in routes during offseason workouts has been noticeable.

The Panthers also expect more from Williams, a former basketball player at Portland Bible College who surprised many when he made the final roster a year ago. Athletically, at 6-foot-4 and 250 pounds, he's drawn comparisons to Denver tight end Julius Thomas.

McNeill was brought in as a free agent from St. Louis to be a blocker. The Panthers believe he is an upgrade from Hartsock, who was not re-signed.

The long shot to make the roster is Jefferson, a seventh-round pick by Arizona in 2013.

But it's clear the Panthers plan to use the tight end more and get back to the way they were in 2011, when they had Olsen and Jeremy Shockey during quarterback Cam Newton's rookie season.

Newton completed 310 of 517 passes for an NFL-rookie-record 4,051 yards and 21 touchdowns that season. Eighty-two of those for 955 yards and nine touchdowns went to Olsen and Shockey.

Having two tight ends in the game also gives Newton more protection with a revamped offensive line and more flexibility to run with an extra blocker.

"It's a personnel group I believe in," Rivera said. "It poses a lot of problems for your opponents."

Too bad he didn't say plethora of problems.

David Newton | email

ESPN Carolina Panthers reporter

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